Being a new mom, I knew that I had to take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. People have countless opinions on every aspect of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a child. My husband and I would laugh some nights after being in a group at all the conflicting pieces of advice we received.
One thing I was a little concerned about was being able to produce milk. I am a “do-er” type of person. If I set my mind to something, I will get it done. Unfortunately, when it comes to my body, I cannot “force” anything. Friends who had babies before me told me what month their baby was when their milk ran out or stories that they couldn’t go through breastfeeding for whatever reason. This worried me – I wanted to provide for my baby. Even more than that, I personally feel like there is a responsibility placed on moms to be able to provide for the baby in this way.
After delivering my son Jude, the nurse told me to pump after every time I tried to feed him (which was every hour). I thought she was crazy. I was in pain, my nipples were sore, and who has time to pump when there is a living child sleeping next to you? I did my best, but my milk did not come in when I was in the hospital, or days after. Jude lost about 10% of his body weight, and I started to get the helpless and worried feeling of failure. My milk finally came in, but the whole pumping thing was still foreign to me. I began to pump religiously after every other feeding, especially if Jude didn’t eat a lot.
As if new moms didn’t have it hard enough, I was pumping multiple times a day, and even waking in the middle of the night to pump. My supply got big very quickly, and my freezer was full of milk before I knew it. I still had the fear of running dry, even though I had more than Jude could take. I was able to pump up to 24 ounces after fully feeing Jude.
Thankfully, I was able to find a mom who needed milk for her daughter. I started donating my milk to her when Jude was a couple months old and continued throughout Jude’s first year. If you find yourself with an oversupply, please consider donating. It is an amazing feeling knowing that you are feeding two (or more) healthy babies.
The biggest question I get is how to create a larger supply. I have come up with 5 tips to help you:
- Be Consistent: One thing I found out during my pumping experience is that your milk supply in one day will mirror what you did the day before. If you happened to be away from your baby and couldn’t find time to pump, your supply will be smaller the following day. This is important to note for your child’s meal times. If you want a larger supply in the middle of the day or evening, try pumping after feeding your baby during those hours.
- Stick With It: There is no beating around the bush, pumping and breastfeeding is hard work. It hurts, it is a huge time commitment, and it can leave you feeling disappointed. It is hard after pregnancy to still not have your body back, and it adds more responsibility to your list of mom duties. However, it is worth it. Your baby is getting the best nutrition it possibly can from you. You can do this.
- Find Your Comfort Zone: I had a specific seat in a room in my house where my pump lived. It was comfortable, I had access to a TV if I wanted, and it was safe for my baby to be in the room when I didn’t have hands accessible. I had a large water bottle that lived there too while I pumped. If you are in a place where you are comfortable, you will be able to relax while pumping which is so important.
- Nutrition: I found early on that what I ate while breastfeeding and pumping was so important. Truthfully, I felt amazing at first – dropping 40+ pounds in two weeks and eating what I wanted. That did not last, and I could tell my milk supply changed with what I ate throughout the day. Protein, veggies, and carbs (not too many) helped me produce the most milk. Anything with grease or sugar gave me less milk. Also, drink plenty of water throughout the day and evening.
- No Stress: You created this baby and everything is going to work out. Do not become obsessed with the number of ounces you are able to pump or the amount of milk you have stored in a freezer. Pumping should never become a burden or make you feel poorly about yourself. Your biggest priority is your sweet child and providing for it as a newborn means you will make sure you have a way to feed him/her, regardless of where the milk comes from.
With that last point in mind, I am very aware that some women are not able to breastfeed or choose to use formula for multiple reasons. Not breastfeeding does not make you any less of a mother. You are the best thing that has ever happened to your baby. You are providing for your little one.
What is your experience with pumping and what tips do you have to help build your supply?